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Seven Ideas for Crafting Creative Book Reviews

*Pin Credit: Caroline Flory*
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I've been really blessed with some fantastic readers! I don't catch all the blog reviews that readers post about my books, but when one comes to my attention, I try to add it to an ongoing list on my Books Page.

So far readers have written over 40 blog reviews for A Noble Groom (and if I've missed your review, PLEASE let me know!) A BIG thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write something up! I appreciate it SO much!

From a reader's perspective, I appreciate the wide variety of types of reviews.

The least helpful to me personally are the book reviews that simply give an overview of the plot. Usually I can get that kind of summary by reading the book description or back cover blurb. The exception is when I'm reading reviews on books that my kids want to read. Then as a mom, I appreciate a longer, more detailed summary of what's in the book.

The most helpful types of reviews are those that offer personal impressions, in particular what the reader really enjoyed about the book and then perhaps what didn't resonate (if anything). I really like when readers break down the review into smaller sub-sections like "What I Liked" and "What I Didn't Care For" or categories like Plot, Characters, and Writing Style similar to what Kathi O. Peterson did in her review of A Noble Groom.

From an author's perspective, I appreciate any review or mention of my book no matter how big or small and no matter how it's organized! Lately in particular, I've noticed that some reviewers have been thinking outside the box and offering their reviews in various formats.

Here are just a few of the creative types of reviews that readers have done with my latest book A Noble Groom

1. Spotlighting the main characters in a movie star format. Rel Mollet does a great job at this, and here's her Character Spotlight for Carl and Annalisa the main characters in A Noble Groom. She describes the character's physical appearance, what movie star they resemble, quirks, and strengths and weaknesses.

2. Chatting with the main characters in an interview format. Karlene Jacobsen made herself the interviewer and asked questions of both Carl and Annalisa like how they met, whether it was love at first sight, why he decided to stay and help Annalisa on her farm, etc.

3. Sharing the writing lessons learned from the book. Amanda Barratt picked five writing lessons she learned from reading A Noble Groom including lessons about similes and metaphors, conflict, descriptions, making likable characters, and romantic tension.

4. Making a video review of the book. JoJo Sutis from JoJo's Corner does a variety of video book reviews and recently did one for A Noble Groom. She starts by giving a basic description of what the book is about and then ends with her specific impressions of the characters, themes, etc.

Here's an idea of what she does:




5. Making Pinterest pins out of quotes from the book. Caroline Flory made pins out of quotes that were meaningful to her from the book. She pinned them onto Pinterest, used them in her review, and also sent them to me so that I could use them too. (The top picture of this post is one of her pins!)

6. Sharing the review in a party format. Jill Kemerer does a fantastic job celebrating releases and supporting author friends. For every one of my releases, she's thrown a party, had virtual food, invited friends to join in the fun, had giveaways, and celebrated the milestone.

7. Writing a short story or poem to highlight the author or review. Lisa Bartelt did a great job with this, basing her review off the book series by Laura Numeroff’s brilliant “If You Give a …” series of books. To give you an idea of what she did, here's her review:

If you give me a book by Jody Hedlund, I will want to start reading it right away.

If I start reading it right away, I will let the children play anywhere in the house.

If I let the children play anywhere in the house, the house will get messy.

I will feel guilty and want to clean.

I will help them pick up,

Make them dinner,

And put them in bed as early as possible so I can get back to my book.

If the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, I will keep reading.

I will stay up too late.

In the morning, I will need extra coffee to start my day.

If I’m drinking coffee, I will need a book to read.

So I’ll continue reading the new Jody Hedlund book.

One cup of coffee will turn to two.

And soon it’s midmorning and I haven’t washed a dish or folded a piece of laundry.

I will Tweet the author to tell her my house is being ignored because her book is so good.

She will have no sympathy and tell me I can clean later.

I will turn on cartoons so the kids will leave me alone to finish the book.

I will set the book down a dozen times near the end to wait on them.

When I read the last word, I will close the book,

And sigh.

I will plunge my hands in the dishwater and feel a sense of loss.

Because if I finish a Jody Hedlund book, chances are,

I’ll want to read another one. ~Lisa Bartelt

So what kind of reviews are most helpful to you? What kinds are the least helpful?


27 comments:

  1. They are great ideas, Jody. I take it you need photoshop to do the pin one.

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    1. Thanks, Catherine! I'm not exactly sure how Caroline made the above pin. There are many different ways to go about making pins. One increasingly popular way is to use PicMonkey. It's a free site that allows you to add text, crop, and do all kinds of things with pictures. Here's the link: http://www.picmonkey.com/ It's one of my favorite ways to make pins because it's easy and doesn't take long!

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    2. Thank you for sharing that! I was wondering how to do that as well!

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  2. Hi Jody,

    I've been thinking of writing long, researched and structured reviews of my favorite books for some time and this post has really expanded my perspective. I have so many more ideas to play with now. Thank you so much!

    -Radhika

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    1. Oh great, Radhika! Glad the post gave you some more ideas to play with! Love it! :-)

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  3. Aw, thanks, Jody!! I love all these ideas! I'm book-marking this post for future reference. When I read reviews, I like to see reasons they liked the book. If they gave it anything other than five stars, I want some evidence of why.

    Boy, that poem was well thought out! Nice!! :)

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    1. Thank YOU, Jill! :-) Yes, I'm always curious to know why a reader docks a book down too. But on the other hand, I think some readers generally give out 4 stars to books they like, and reserve 5 for the books they LOVE. Usually when a reader gives one of my books a 4 star, they don't say why they marked it down a point. I just have to assume that they liked it, but perhaps it didn't make their "favorite shelf."

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  4. I like to see in-depth reviews as well. I don't want a summary of the book when the blurb is right there. (Although, half the time, that is the sort of review I write... meh.) If it is YA, I want to know if it's good enough to send to my niece or nephew. When I write reviews for YA, I try to warn people up front of any language or graphic scenes. I do try to do reviews of books that don't give away the whole story, either. Lots of people leave reviews and don't warn you of spoilers and that is a pet peeve! I don't want to read the entire book in your summarized review! Good post. :D

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    1. Mel, I always appreciate YA reviews that warn of language or graphic scenes or anything else questionable. Although I trust my kids (for the most part) to come to me and talk about issues they find in books, it's still nice to know upfront. And I agree with the spoiler part of reviews! I really like it when people put *spoiler alert* in their review. Then I can make the choice whether to keep reading or not.

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  5. These are all very fun review ideas! I too hate when reviewers reiterate the synopsis in their review and it usually stops me from finishing said review. I tend to stick with a basic review format and just give my opinion on the book. With books I love I tend to gush a lot about just how much I loved them and books I didn't like as much I try to surround the the stuff I didn't like with the things I did! Your books (the two I've reviewed) definitely got the gushing kind of review! I have absolutely loved all four of them and CANNOT wait for Rebellious Heart-only four more months!

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    1. Thank you for the gushing, Abbi! Okay, now that you mention it, gushing reviews are my favorite! LOL

      No seriously, I like your approach. It's great to surround the not-so-favorite-parts of a book with the stuff that we liked. When someone is completely negative, I tend to blow off their review. I usually think, "Oh they're just one of those glass half-empty kind of people" who find something wrong with everything. So even if we don't particularly like a book, I think we can still find ways to phrase the negative so that it doesn't come across as especially critical and demeaning.

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  6. Great tips. I like writing book reviews, but don't often think about ideas like Pinterest. I mostly stick to Goodreads and on rare occasions, Amazon.

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    1. Hi Julie! Yes, I think Pinterest is becoming a excellent place to share things about books in many different formats, whether pictures of books with links to a review, pins of quotes from books, pictures of you with the book, etc. You can tell I love Pinterest! :-)

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  7. Thank you for sharing this. It was really helpful to see the various ideas. I am just starting to share reviews on my blog and I wanted to be creative with how I did it and this definitely gives me some great ideas! Thank you!

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    1. Glad it gave you some ideas, Rhonda! Happy reviewing! :-)

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  8. Very helpful post. I review books on my blog and I'm always looking for interesting ways to do it!

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  9. Hello Jody,

    I review books and am currently working on my new book review blog, I was wondering all along how to make these reviews more user-friendly, author friendly and reader friendly.

    There is a lot you can choose to write in varied forms, but for me the click is to present it in a way that it is quick and easy. As all of us are time strained.

    Your post here is brilliant and I liked the variety inputs you have provided, it's truly useful. Thanks for this info.

    Best Regards
    Bhawana

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  10. Great post! I'm a conservative reviewer so I like the readers impression of the book, not so much a long synopsis. With the ones that are on the back of books now, I usually get a good feel for the book. What I especially don't like....spoilers! So many reviewers think they are summing up the story when in fact they are giving away tidbits that I would like to discover for myself.

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  11. Wow Jody! My eyes have sprung wide open (when they should be shut at this time of the night /morning! :0)
    I have just read all the reviews and I'm impressed with the number of ways a book review can be done. I LOVE the party idea.. coffee and chocs?? YUM!
    My views are similar to Abbi.If I were to write one, I would definitely be a "gusher" as there is not one book of yours that I can fault and I say this in all sincerity.I love the integrity and the passion which you display, when you write your novels Jody.
    If I had to make a "crit" I would say to you, "Dear Jody, just double the number of pages, because I TRULY enjoy reading them!
    Seriously, if you lived over here or I lived over there, I would definitely be an a/b reader of your books.

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  12. Hi Jody;
    I have to say that this blog post wasn't what I expected it to be, sorry. I honestly am still lost about writing a good book review but I'll keep plugging away at it.

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  16. Thank you for the information. I actually prefer a short book review and conciseness. A book jacket does not tell you anything but what the publisher's want you to know so you will buy the book and this I often very misleading. The New York Times book reviews are often misleading to as they cut deals with the publishers to promote authors. So, they are biased. For me, the less wordy a book review is the better and it has to be honest and honesty can be tactful, humorous as well as direct. If people want to read more, than they need to read the book and get their own conclusions. Going into what helps a writer is simply overdoing it. F. Scott Fitzgerald said that he just read, read, read, and that helped him be a better writer. We have to respect the reader and let them find their way themselves. I wonder, this is not a slam, but your review sounds lie a frustrated elementary teacher.

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